Prisons boss grilled

Prisons boss grilled

MASERU – THE Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner Thabang Mothepu was grilled by the Ombudsman yesterday over his controversial appointment last month.
Mothepu had a tough time explaining why he was appointed the correctional services boss on May 31 despite the fact that ’Matefo Makhalemele was still the substantive head of the LCS.

“I cannot answer the question. This one can only be (directed to) the Prime Minister,” Mothepu said.
He was also asked why he was appointed the acting commissioner last year after the coming in of the new coalition government despite the fact that Makhalemele was still in office.

“I can’t answer it. The minister is the one who knows,” he said.
“I was appointed the acting commissioner because the commissioner was not there. I’m not sure about the reasons behind it because it was done by the PS and the minister.”

Mothepu was summoned by the Ombudsman after junior prison warders complained that promotions within the LCS were being done on the basis of political affiliation.
He was also asked to explain the criteria he uses when he promotes staff.
Mothepu said he focuses on the individual’s performance.

He also considers the person’s physical fitness and issues of discipline.
“We do not focus much on the level of education a person may have,” Mothepu said.

“In most cases our posts do not need educational qualifications. For instance, the post may need a person who can work in security premises and it is clear that it will not need somebody who is highly educated,” he said, adding: “But it will require the person with good ability to do such a job.”
The Ombudsman wanted to know whether the job experience a person has is considered when the commissioner selects candidates for promotions.

The commissioner said a person might have worked for 20 years in one position but the person might not be exposed and have enough training.
“It can also happen that a person with only a year’s (experience) may be well trained and be exposed to the work he is doing, then the person who has 20 years’ experience but untrained cannot be promoted,” he said.

“We have also used the LCS Act of 2016, section 23 and the Public Service Act as well as the advice from the board.”
When the Ombudsman asked him about what kind of a person is decorated with the Meritorious Medal, the commissioner was not happy at all.
He did not want to answer that question but instead said he was not told that he would be asked that question.

“In the schedule of questions you gave me you did not state that you would be asking this one. I will not be able to answer it,” he said.
The LCS’ legal adviser, Senior Assistant Commissioner Majara, who had testified against Mothepu a day earlier, was not present during the interrogation.

Mothepu was being assisted by Advocate Jobo Raswoko. While Mothepu was still being quizzed a number of his staff went out and had a small meeting and all of a sudden there was a message that Mothepu was needed urgently somewhere.
Mothepu was allowed to leave the premises.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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